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Q&A with Peter Clemons

Q. How did you become involved in the critical communications industry?

It’s a long story, but following many years living, studying and working in Latin America, I came back to UK – University of Bristol – for a further degree in Economics & Finance. I ended up writing a dissertation on Access Pricing in Telecommunications and landed a job with a US consulting firm based in London. My first report in 1996 was on the emerging TETRA standard and its potential. Although I have always kept a close eye on other technologies since then, TETRA and critical communications has remained my specialist subject.

Q. Does technological evolution now mean the end of the road for technologies such as TETRA?

Most definitely not. This is what I find so difficult to explain to non-technical people such as politicians, the business community and financial institutions, to name just a few. Quixoticity is currently involved in defining the critical communications components of the ITU/3GPP 5G standard (IMT-2020, Releases 15 + 16) which will underpin future societies, economies and new business and operational models during 2020s and well into the 2030s. But this doesn’t mean that existing standards such as TETRA, P25, DMR or even analogue PMR are becoming obsolete quite yet. So-called 2G technologies will be around for at least another decade – and maybe longer. We are defining interfaces and interworking between all the generations - 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G - so that critical users can migrate smoothly, efficiently and sensibly from existing solutions to whatever comes next, group by group, step by step, in a safe, low-risk environment.

Q. Tell us more about Quixoticity?

I set up Quixoticity back in 2012 to take a fresh look at the evolution of global critical communications. I have worked in just about every geographical market, with almost all the major suppliers, operators and end-users in our space. I have always believed that one day all communications will be critical to societies, economies and our general health & well-being. However, I found that there was a huge void in interest, knowledge and investment between the enormous commercial space and the niche critical space that needs to be bridged if we are to develop the secure, reliable, always available future solutions required by all global citizens – solutions that the critical communications industry understands very well. I believe Quixoticity can fill this gap.

Q. What role does Quixoticity play in global standards?

In spite of being a very, very small business – a micro-business, in fact – Quixoticity has been a member of TCCA since its inception, participating in a number of working groups such as Marketing Group, Transport Group, CCBG (Broadband Group). Last year, Quixoticity also became probably the smallest member of ETSI & 3GPP. As the 5G requirements & technologies are defined over the coming months & years, critical communications will be at the very heart of these efforts – public safety, security, low latencies, ultra-reliability, vertical markets etc. Quixoticity is developing a vision of the future up to 2030, studying the most likely paths to success for public safety & critical communications organisations.

Q. What projects are you currently working on?

I have been spending a lot of time recently in the Middle East, in particular, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and even more recently, Dubai, understanding more about the requirements of public safety & national security agencies, helping out mission-critical communications-focused operators such as Bravo and developing a new framework to understand critical communications in emerging markets. Many global standards bodies, institutions and associations tend to be very Eurocentric or focused on already-developed markets. There is an exciting new world out there beyond the main global centres that is developing very quickly and can contribute new ideas and new ways of seeing the world.

Perhaps Quixoticity’s most ambitious project, now reaching a critical stage in its development, is the Quixoticity Global Index which will rank a wide range of markets, organisations and solutions according to their visions & maturity as we move from a predominantly “2G world” of TETRA/P25/DMR towards a new fully convergent world circa 2030. Is there one particular path from one world to the next? If not, then how many might there be and which ones might be quantitatively or qualitatively better than others? Hopefully, if this work succeeds, the Quixoticity Index will be a valuable additional tool for Governments, suppliers, operators, end-users & fellow analysts, investors etc.

Q. What excites you most about the future?

The future is always a source of endless possibilities. The world seems to be an increasingly complex, confusing and dangerous place, but this is also a sign that we are transitioning perhaps faster than we had previously imagined towards a new world fit for the generations to come. While we must, of course, make sure we hold on to those technologies and solutions that provide us with stability and continuity – especially within the naturally conservative field of critical communications – the rapidly emerging and converging 5G space of 2020s/2030s will be infinitely better than our present reality. So I am looking forward to all the exciting new services and applications within the spheres of security, public safety, mobility, automation, AI/ML, VR/AR that will provide us with greater knowledge and support to cope with the unforeseen challenges of living in future smart, safe cities and nations.

Q. How important is Critical Communications MENA?

For a number of years now, the Middle East region has been a test bed for new, advanced critical communications technologies, solutions and applications. Governments, operators & critical end-users across the region understand the importance of the services provided by our community and are always very supportive of global initiatives.

This means that the Critical Communications MENA is always very well attended and an important part of the global calendar for all of us. The region is looking likely to adopt emerging 4G/5G standards for public safety and other critical sectors ahead of other parts of the world using innovative new business models, so we can learn a lot from what is currently happening here and hopefully also impart some of our knowledge to make sure the current and future projects are a success. One single annual event that brings us all together at this particular moment in time is extremely important.

Q. What will you be speaking about this year in Dubai?

I will be chairing a GCC Panel session discussing the current situation of critical communications across the region and exploring possible paths to greater cooperation and information sharing by some of Middle East’s most significant players. Our sector is evolving and developing so quickly that it is vitally important to define best practice within our industry and make sure that successes and mistakes can be shared in an open, trusting environment.

I will also be presenting the latest results and insights from Quixoticity’s Global Index, looking at how we can move forward towards the future across such a dynamic, changing landscape, prioritising national security, public safety and smarter, safer cities & nations at a time of budgetary constraints, heightened uncertainty and socio-political tensions. This talk will look at the global situation, but with a particular focus on the major issues facing the MENA region.

Q. Where do you believe the critical communications industry is heading?

Critical communications has a very, very bright future as public safety LTE networks are rolled out across the world and we move towards limited deployments of exciting 5G-ready solutions. Over the next decade or so, existing TETRA/P25/DMR networks will merge with these emerging standard solutions until users – and operators – will not be able to distinguish their individual features. Probably by 2030, we will no longer be talking about a separate critical communications industry and there will no longer be a need for a Critical Communications World, as fixed-mobile convergence and fully-deployed next-generation architectures become the underlying fabric of future societies and economies.

Then we will all be able to put our feet up, plug ourselves into the next-generation Internet and enjoy a long, relaxing retirement, until the moment finally arrives for our physical self to say goodbye to this world and for our digital self to ascend to the Cloud to be harvested until the end of time by future generations.